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January 9, 2020

For the first time in decades, Portland-area bus service tops 2M annual ridership

Photo / William Hall METRO bus service in the Portland area topped 2 million in 2019, the most since 1984 and 8% up from the 2018 number..

About 2.1 million people rode METRO buses operated by the Greater Portland Transit District during 2019 — the most since 1984.

The record ridership is the first to crack the 2 million mark in that time and represents an 8% increase over the 2018 total of 1.9 million, according to a news release Wednesday. The 2019 increase was also larger than the growth from 2017-2018, a 5% uptick.

The 54-year-old transit agency operates buses throughout Portland and also to Brunswick, Falmouth, Freeport, Gorham, South Portland, Westbrook and Yarmouth. Since 2013, the buses have carried a steady increase in passengers.

“With transit boardings increasing by 45% since 2013, we’re seeing there is strong demand for improved public transit in our region and that transit works in Maine,” METRO General Manager Greg Jordan said in the release.

Jordan credited the growth to enhancements over recent years in the transit system, Maine’s largest. Among the improvements: additional bus frequency and routes; new buses and shelters; and the Breez express service between Portland, Yarmouth, Freeport and Brunswick. Partnerships with the University of Southern Maine, Southern Maine Community College, Portland Public Schools and Maine Medical Center have also boosted ridership.

In 2020, METRO, the South Portland Bus Service and Biddeford Saco Old Orchard Beach Transit will introduce a joint fare policy that includes fare increases, the introduction of “smart” transit cards, and a mobile app. The fare changes are expected to start on April 1, according to the release.

Editor's Note: This story has been corrected to reflect that 2019 ridership was the most since 1984.

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